Countervailing Power and Chain Stores

Mills, David
May 2013
Review of Industrial Organization;May2013, Vol. 42 Issue 3, p281
Academic Journal
The countervailing power of large buyers subdues the market power of sellers, but price concessions won by large buyers in upstream markets may or may not translate into lower prices downstream as Galbraith (American capitalism: The concept of countervailing power. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, , Am Econ Rev 44:1-6, ) once contended. This paper presents a model that formalizes certain previously neglected elements of Galbraith's argument, and shows that upstream price concessions may lead to lower downstream prices. In this model, a large retail chain store with countervailing power plays one large supplier off against another to win lower prices. An indirect effect of these interactions is that small retailers also pay lower prices, although not as low as the chain. Finally, competition among the retailers drives retail prices lower. The retail-price-restraining effect of the chain is stronger than the effect that is produced by the entry of an additional supplier.


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